Morgan Spurlock, the director of Supersize Me and one of the contributing directors of Freakonomics, demonstrates, through the film, that things are not always as they seem in life. And, by breaking down the facts and crunching numbers like an economist would, we as a society can find hidden truths, agendas, and incentives that operate internally within our social systems. Freakonomics is an amazing journey through the bittersweet reality of how things truly operate within society and how, in turn, they affect our own personal everyday lives. Spurlock’s segment on parenting dives into the details surrounding how much parents actually make a difference in a child’s life, and how your name may have a positive or negative effect on the turnabouts of your life. Spurlock combines humor and intellect as he seeks out average Americans on the street, and even baby-naming experts, and in the end, through a series of social experiments, Spurlock concludes that names do make a difference based on deeper social contexts like race, class, and gender. Spurlock champions again in Freakonomics as one of the most interesting, talented, and heartfelt documentary directors of our time.
Brittany Kyles: What got you started on documentaries?
Morgan Spurlock: I love docs -- I always have. One of the first docs I saw in theaters was Brother's Keepers, which I think is one of the most perfect movies, doc or otherwise, and I started watching a lot of great films. And literally, when we got the idea for Supersize Me, we had just finished doing this TV series for MTV called I Bet You Will and had 50 grand in the bank and said, "Let’s make a movie." So we got the idea for Supersize Me after having shot this TV show so on the cheap and owned our own camera, and thought this film would be great to do, to deal with this issue, because obesity is everywhere. Since then, documentaries have just been my life.
BK: Have you eaten at McDonald's since?
MS: Absolutely not. [Laughs] The last McDonald's meal I’ve had was in the last party scene of the movie, which was my last McDonald's supper, and that was March 2, 2003.
BK: Why did you decide to do Freakonomics?
MS: I loved the book, and the producer called me about working on this film, which was when we first sat down in 2006, and he was thinking of producing this book into a movie and taking an ensemble of documentary filmmakers and put it together.
BK: What projects do you have coming up next?
MS: I’m working on a movie right now, and couple other things. I am editing a TV show that follows two filmmakers into the Toronto Film Festival and covering how it premiers and what their experience is in the festival. Now I am finishing a movie about Comic-Con in San Diego, which will come out next year.
BK: Which of the stories is your favorite in the film?
MS: I love the sumo story -- the whole idea of there being honor in cheating. There is such a great story there, and what unfolds in his piece is beautiful. I love the story of real estate brokers, especially after almost buying a house two years ago, I realized that they don’t give a shit about you and only care about making their commission.
BK: Why did you choose to do the segment on parenting?
MS: I'd just had my son probably about a year before that when we were making a film, and the idea of what his mom and I were going to name him was very much in the front of our conservations. We had a boy name, and thank God we had a boy. His name is Lankin. I don’t know what we would have done if we had a girl because every girl name we came up with was too soft or too butchy, or too wussy. [Laughs] If we had a girl, she probably still would have a name. And the fact that they have a baby naming expert and that you can hire someone to name your kid is so unbelievable.
BK: It seems that names make a difference in your life. Has your name affected your life in any noticeable ways?
MS: When I went to school, there were no other Morgans. There was Morgan Fairchild on TV, and the first Morgan I met was on the beach when I was 17, and she was a five-year-old girl. It did make me feel different because I didn’t have a name like everybody else, but I think it gave me confidence in a lot of ways.
BK: One of the fundamentals in Freakonomics is incentives. What are some incentives that have motivated you in your career or life?
MS: That’s a great question. For me now, after having my son, there are a lot of incentives for me to try and make work that he will be proud of. I want to make work I like, but I hope I am building some kind of legacy that I hope will make a difference. I think every parent's job is to make your world a little better for your kid, and you have an obligation to make it better than how you had it. So I think that’s what really motivates me.
BK: Another theme is that experts use their own information to serve their own agendas. Do you think there is any expert or source of information that we can truly trust?
MS: I believe in a huge dose of skepticism. That doesn’t mean you should be cynical, but you should always be skeptical. I think data and information can always be spun in a way for it to support what people deem appropriate. I remember after Supersize Me came out, there was a story funded by the sugar lobby that showed drinking soda is not tied to diabetes, and I thought, but the massive amounts of sugar in soda is tied to diabetes. I think there is a way to spin almost anything, and we live in a time where people just what to be told what to believe and what to think. For me, when I hear something interesting, I dive onto the Internet and see how many other stories support those findings. The news is so recycled, and it’s really a domino effect.
BK: Is there anything you hope the audience will particularly take away from the film?
MS: I think this film does a really good job of getting you to think about things a little differently, and I think, if people can begin to look at the world through a different filter, that would be a really great thing.
'Freakonomics' is in theaters now.